Read of the Week: ‘Emmy & Oliver’ by Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it and finding himself returned to his old hometown all at once has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

There’s something about this book that hits close to home. Sure, it’s a book about a boy who goes missing for a decade and shows up out of the blue to impact different people’s lives in unique ways, but it’s so much more than that. What really stands out here is the degree of friendship portrayed.

I think it’s safe to say that we all have long lost friends we think about from time to time. They may not have been kidnapped the way Oliver was, but you might have lost touch somewhere along the line, and they’re still a very present force in your mind; it’s because they were something extremely special at one point or another. Emmy & Oliver plays out a lot like this, and it’s that bond that they have that makes this book so relatable.

Not many people get a do-over, but Emmy and Oliver get theirs, and it’s so beautifully heartbreaking. The romance in this novel was touching, but it’s so much more about friendship, and I love that for these two, that’s always the case. When it comes down to it, there will always be issues in regards to family, to love, to life, but that precious connection that’s always been present is what will ultimately be left standing at the end of the day.

I really enjoy the obstacles that needed to be overcome throughout the course of the novel, and how honest these characters were to themselves about the situation at hand. The concept of this book is fairly new, but I can tell that if it had been done by anyone else, it would have played out very differently than it did here. I initially expected this to be more of a recovery story where Oliver comes back a tortured, traumatized kid who lived a horrible life with his psycho dad, and was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the scenario at all. The situation in general was so raw and unexpected, and it really added to the storytelling. I loved the fact that in Oliver’s head, his dad wasn’t a villain, and at times, you as a reader have the ability to connect with that idea that this man wasn’t a complete asshole who just took his kid and ran to start trouble. Personally, one of my favorite things to do in terms of literature is find a way to relate myself to villains, both to make them feel less valid and to make them feel kind of bitchy. It’s all in good fun, really, but in Emmy & Oliver, it was so much more than just that. Here, it’s all about humanity and the ability to be decent. I think, as people, and in the world we live in, these little reminders are necessary for staying humble.

Anyone who likes the idea of a romance that spans over time in one of the most unlikely ways will love the way Emmy & Oliver pulls you in with childhood memories, laughter, and friendship.

Rating: 8/10

Rachel Geiger, another TYF contributor, also took a go at the novel, so check out her thoughts below!

Oliver was kidnapped ten years ago by his own father. After Emmy and the rest of the town had thought he was gone forever, he returned. I like how we get to see how the whole town was affected by this horrible thing happening to one of their own. I thought that maybe Emmy’s parents were a little too strict, even in these circumstances. I mean, Oliver is home safely, and her parents don’t loosen the reigns on her ONE BIT. I get that they were afraid and she was an only child, but it’s still pretty ridiculous that she had to sneak behind their backs to just surf.

Emmy is a fairly likable main character, but I felt like she lacked personality and all we really knew about her revolved around surfing, Oliver, her friends, and strict parents. However, what she lacked in personality was made up for by her close friends Drew and Caro. Her two best friends are sassy and hilarious. I don’t know about you, but I want them as my best friends. For me, personally, this was definitely one of the highlights of the novel.

I found Oliver to be a great character, and I like how he wasn’t enthusiastic about being home. He obviously feels a lot of confusion about living with complete strangers and it felt real to see him struggle with his feelings towards his dad. On one hand, he misses his father, because life with him made sense. He also struggles with wondering why his father did it. His father was estranged from Oliver’s mom, and he knew he wouldn’t get much time with his son, so that’s why he took him away from home. He told Oliver that his mother left them and that she didn’t want to hear from her son. So young Oliver naturally trusted what his father told him, including when he began calling him by a different name. I found this to be a little strange but also necessary, since it gives us insight into how exactly his father got away with this.

The friendship between Emmy and Oliver was so endearing at its early stages. The flashbacks to when they were children happens in reverse chronological order, starting from Emmy’s last interaction with Oliver to the very first. This was a unique style, and I personally have never seen it before in YA books. In a sense, I felt like the transition from Emmy being a total stranger to Oliver to them becoming an item was a little fast. For example, he doesn’t remember the note he wrote, but he remembers that they flipped the light on to let the other know that they were there. I loved when Emmy shared her passion for surfing with Oliver. This is something that means a lot to her, and I think having this moment where they find something that just belongs to them was awesome.

Although I’ve been a little harsh and picky about this one, I really did like the book as a whole. I just think there were some flaws that I couldn’t simply ignore. But the characters and the general storyline made this a fast-paced read that I devoured in just a few hours!

Rating: 7/10

Steph is 20 years old, born and raised in Miami, Florida. An avid reader and aspiring author, she oftentimes wishes she were a fictional character. The rest of her free time is divided between watching bad foreign films and partaking in Disney trivia. She can be contacted via Twitter (@Stephest21) or email : StephanieTYF@yahoo.com